I spent time on the phone with 8 wholesale distributors of wood flooring in the last few weeks trying to get their opinion on a new product line we’re working on. One aspect we were hashing through was what type of finish to use on this new product.
Based on the buzz I was hearing at trade shows and in industry publications I was certain that these distributors would be happy with the UV-oil that I had originally specified. To my dismay I was surprised to hear that they loved every other specification I threw out from species, grade, and lengths, to width, thickness, color, and texture but without exception they asked for something other than the UV-oil coating.
It turns out that their experience selling these products has been a difficult road. We’ve mentioned before in this conversation how these new finishes in some ways hearken back to the days of the old waxed floors your grandmother cleaned and maintained. There is no way around the fact that these types of finishes require a bit more attention than the normal Aluminum Oxide infused top coats that the majority of prefinished floors still wear today.
These distributors told horror stories of their retail customers throwing the flooring displays out of their shops because their customers failed to clean the floor properly and made a huge mess which resulted in a huge headache for them. Even in situations where they felt they had done a good job educating the retailers on the new finishes and new maintenance methods required that information did not get translated down to the user and thus confusion and dissatisfaction was the result.
The trade off on these finishes are pretty simple to understand. The aesthetic look is much better. Deeper color, lower sheen, the wood actually looks like wood and not a plastic representation of wood. But there is more maintenance. Although, there are two sides to that story as well. While these new oil finishes do require more maintenance it is also maintenance that a homeowner can do themselves. Aluminum Oxide infused top coats can only be repaired by professionals. So Aluminum Oxide top coats need less maintenance overall but when it is required it has to be done by professionals. Still, I see more and more flooring producers breaking into the market with these new types of finishes so it may only be a matter of time as people adjust their expectations. My colleague Peter Connor at WD has been promoting their hardwax oil product Stang-Lund which incorporates the Rubio Monocoat finish with some success. Maybe Peter can chime in with his thoughts.